We all know that driving north on a Friday night can be a stop-and-go nightmare. Thankfully, the GPS provided a scenic route to Coachman’s Inn that led us out of the traffic jam and into a more serene backdrop.
I didn’t know what to expect from a “27-hole golf resort” that touts its motel, swimming pool, outdoor volleyball court, snack shop AND fine dining. While I’m not sure I would agree 100 percent with the website’s description of an English country inn setting, a drive around the vast resort’s gently sloping hills and beautiful oak and willow trees was indeed quite pleasant.
Once we parked and entered the brick facade restaurant, we were greeted at the hostess station adjacent to the bar. Several “Wine Spectator” awards adorned the wall, honoring Coachman’s for having one of the most outstanding restaurant wine lists in the nation.
The bar area has a cozy brick fireplace, Edison bulb lanterns, a couple of televisions and several pub tables along the wall. If this is what they consider their “snack shop,” we knew we were in for a treat.
Stepping into the dining room, with its wood paneling and carpeted floor, we found it roomy enough to seat a crowd comfortably. In addition, Coachman’s has a large banquet room that can be reserved for larger groups and where brunch is served on Sundays.
We started with two of the restaurant’s many shrimp appetizer choices (all of which are $9). The herb and garlic shrimp were nicely done in a light sauce, and the coconut shrimp encrusted in a crispy panko breading were served with a mild, creamy curry sauce that went well with everything.
The fish selections on the dinner menu were excellent, and they were not just the usual cod and fries. It was hard to choose, but I narrowed my selection down to the salmon. Coachman’s offers a variety of presentations, from blackened to Asian barbecued to seared with citrus cream.
I opted for the citrus cream sauce, which was light and summery with a hint of orange. And if you like sweet potato fries, Coachman’s has some of the best I’ve had. They were made even better with a dip into the citrus cream sauce.
Nikki also ordered fish. While walleye was featured as one of the evening’s fish fry specials, she decided to order the pretzel-crusted walleye ($20) from the regular menu. It was deep-fried in a house-made beer batter and pretzel panko breading, and then accompanied by a tasty honey bacon tartar sauce. She got a few bones in the first bite, which would normally be a deal breaker for a hesitant fish-eater. But the walleye, with its wonderful pretzel breading, was so delicious that she didn’t let it stop her.
Our fish dinners came with a basket of assorted dinner rolls and a choice of soup or salad. I couldn’t resist the clam chowder, which was velvety smooth. There weren’t too many potatoes, and it had just the right amount of clam bites. Unfortunately, we were less thrilled with our sides of green beans, which seemed a bit overcooked.
Jennifer deliberated between the Friday fish fry and one of the pasta dishes. Pasta won out, and she ordered the chicken with spinach and artichokes ($16).
Beautifully presented, a fork-tender, sliced chicken breast lay atop bowtie pasta in a rich Swiss cheese, spinach and artichoke cream sauce. Topped with sliced green onions and herbed tomatoes, the dish was mouthwatering. It was accompanied by garlic-herb toasted French bread and a pretty basic salad with balsamic dressing.
Helene chose the 16-ounce T-bone steak ($32) cooked to her specifications: medium rare. Topped with mushrooms in a demi sauce, the meat was flavorful, but the sauce wasn’t that pronounced. Thankfully, we still had the curry sauce from the coconut shrimp at the table, and it paired quite nicely with the steak. Along with a side of sweet potato fries, Helene found the meal quite satisfying.
For dessert, Helene opted for a grasshopper cocktail ($6), made with real ice cream. Since she didn’t share, and we heard no complaints, we’ll assume she liked it.
The rest of us split a piece of layered lemon cake ($7). It was a pretty slim slice, but after our filling meals, a few bites of the citrus treat were all we needed.
The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.